Qiu Xiaolong Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Literary reviewers greeted Qiu Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen novels with warmth, albeit more for their setting and literary texture than for their plots. Before the first in the series, Death of a Red Heroine, appeared in 2000, relatively few novels in English dealt with the changes taking place in the People’s Republic of China in the 1990’s from a Chinese point of view. Accordingly, Qiu’s descriptions of his native Shanghai piqued the interest of critics and readers alike. The novels reveal a exuberant nation in transition from a largely closed, state-controlled economy and society to a much more open, capitalistic society. They also portray the conflicts between the Communist Party and the new openness and between traditional Chinese values and the modern mania for material wealth.

Although some reviewers found Qiu’s English prose style somewhat stilted and his text burdened with explanations of Chinese culture, many cited the freshness of his writing. It was said to bring an engaging realism to his characters and convey much vivid information about such matters as Chinese cuisine and architecture. Moreover, critics considered his inclusion of Chinese and English poetry as innovative, moving, and evocative in establishing the intellectual milieu of Shanghai. Death of a Red Heroine was awarded the 2001 Anthony Award for Best First Mystery and named one of the year’s best five political novels by The Wall Street Journal and one of the ten best books by National Public Radio in 2000.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Chi, Pang-Yuan, and David Der-Wei Wang. Chinese Literature in the Second Half of a Modern Century: A Critical Survey. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. Fifteen essays on modern literature in Taiwan and mainland China, including an examination of the post-Maoist literature frequently referred to in Qiu’s novels.

Cummins, Caroline. “Qiu Xiaolong and the Chinese Enigma.” January Magazine (November, 2002). This article discusses Qiu’s background and attitudes about China, the origin and character of Inspector Chen, and Qiu’s purposes in writing.

French, Howard. “For Creator of Inspector Chen, China Is a Tough Case to Crack.” The New York Times, April 7, 2007, p. A4. In this profile of Qiu, the author describes his upbringing and reflects on China and his work.

Kinkley, Jeffrey C. “Chinese Crime Fiction.” Society 30, no. 4 (May-June, 1993): 51-62. An overview article about the origin of Chinese mystery narratives, the difficulties of writing them in China, and typical themes. Sheds light on Qiu’s work.

Kinkley, Jeffrey C. Chinese Justice, the Fiction: Law and Literature in Modern China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000. Kinkley recounts the rise of crime fiction in China following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, tracing both its native forebears and its borrowings from Western literature. Helps place Qiu’s fiction.

Zhao, Henry Y. H. “The River Fans Out: Chinese Fiction Since the Late 1970’s.” European Review 11, no. 2 (May, 2003): 193-209. A review of post-Mao fiction in general, arguing that the utilitarian, political nature of fiction before 1989 changed during the 1990’s to an appreciation of literature for its own sake. Provides context for Qiu’s work.